Anyone for more rigorous exams?

 

This item about exam reform has been sent out by Michael Gove. I would be interested in your views on it:

…..”The last Government utterly failed to provide an exams system that was fit for purpose. Exams were so afflicted by grade inflation and dumbing down that, even though official results soared, our performance in international tests stagnated. Every year, Labour ministers would point to constantly rising exam results and boast that this proved their policies were working. In fact employers and universities lost confidence, parents became disillusioned, and students were at best misled and at worst lied to about the value of the qualifications they were taking.

That is why this government is determined to restore integrity to the exams system, with new GCSEs and A levels which are inoculated against grade inflation and pegged to world’s best.

GCSEs

(Recently) we published revised content for GCSEs in science, history, geography and languages, which will be taught in schools from September 2016. This set out that:

  • In science, the level of detail and scientific knowledge required will increase significantly, and there will be clearer mathematical requirements for each topic. Content will be added on topics including the study of the human genome, gene technology, life cycle analysis, nanoparticles and space physics.
  • In history, every student will be able to cover medieval, early modern and modern history – rather than focusing only on modern world history, as too many students do now. British history will in future account for 40% of a GCSE, rather than 25% as now. There will also be an increase in the number of geographical areas pupils must study.
  • In geography, the balance between physical and human geography will be improved – so that students will learn more about the world’s continents, countries and regions – alongside a requirement that all students study the geography of the UK in depth. Students will also need to use a wide range of investigative skills and approaches, including mathematics and statistics, and we have introduced a requirement for at least 2 examples of fieldwork outside school.
  • In modern languages, greater emphasis has been placed on speaking and writing in the foreign language, thorough understanding of grammar, and translation from English into the foreign language. Most exam questions will be set in the language itself, rather than in English.
  • Finally, ancient languages have been given a separate set of criteria for the first time, reflecting their specific requirements. Students will now need to translate unseen passages into English, and will have the option to translate short English sentences into the ancient language.

A levels

We also published revised content for A levels in English literature, English language, English literature and language, biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, history, economics, business, computer science, art and design and sociology, for first teaching from September 2015.

The content for these A levels was reviewed and recommended by Professor Mark E. Smith, vice-chancellor of Lancaster University, drawing on advice from subject experts from universities and elsewhere. We hope this input from higher education will mean these new A levels better prepare young people for progression to undergraduate study. The new content set out that:

  • Mathematical and quantitative content has been strengthened in each of the sciences, computer science, economics and business: for example, understanding standard deviation in biology and the concepts underlying calculus in physics.
  • In computer science, basic ICT content has been removed and emphasis has been placed instead on programming and far more detailed content on algorithms.
  • In the sciences, there will also be a new requirement that students must carry out at least 12 practical activities, ensuring that they develop vital scientific techniques and become comfortable using key apparatus. At the moment, some students can take a science A level without having any practical work assessed at all.
  • In history, as well as covering the history of more than one country or state beyond the British Isles, students will also now be required to study topics across a chronological range of at least 200 years, up from 100 years presently.
  • In English literature, specified texts will include three works from before 1900 – including at least one play by Shakespeare – and at least one work from after 2000. We have also reintroduced the requirement for A level students to be examined on an ‘unseen’ literary text, to encourage wide and critical reading.
  • Finally, in economics, content has been updated to include the latest issues, such as financial regulation and the role of central banks.

Alongside these announcements on the content of exams, Ofqual has set out how these new GCSEs and A levels should be assessed – with linear assessment rather than modules, and a greater focus on exams rather than controlled assessment.

New A levels and GCSEs in arts subjects from 2016

I also announced yesterday that a number of exams in other subjects will be reformed for first teaching from September 2016.

At GCSE, this includes art and design, music, drama, and dance, as well as five further subjects – citizenship, computer science, design and technology, PE, and religious studies. This means students will be able to access high-quality, rigorous GCSEs in the arts subjects at the same time as reformed GCSEs in languages, history, sciences and geography. Only GCSEs in English and maths will be reformed more quickly. At A level, music, drama, and dance, as well as design and technology, PE, and religious studies, will be reformed.

This announcement has been widely welcomed across the arts world and elsewhere. I am delighted that children will now be able to learn about Britain’s cultural heritage and develop their creativity while striving for qualifications on a par with those in academic subjects.

Overall, our changes will increase the rigour of qualifications, strengthening the respect in which they are held by employers and universities alike. Young people in England deserve world-class qualifications and a world-class education – and I hope you will agree that is what our reforms will deliver.”

 

 

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135 Comments

  1. alan jutson
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 5:52 am | Permalink

    Well I have absolutely no problem with making examinations meaningful and fit for purpose, but I suppose it depends on what you call fit for purpose.

    If fit for purpose means you learn something that is practical, will eventually help you with employment or further study, will help you understand your own County’s history, world geography, and teach you to become numerate and able to express yourself clearly in word and speech as the basics, then great.

    In addition if such examinations can be set in such a way as to become void of grade inflation with the results shown as percentage out of 100, then they clearly become meaningful to most people.

    • alan jutson
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 6:02 am | Permalink

      I also think that the School day should be much longer, but with no official homework set.
      At present it would seem that much work has to be completed at home in order to complete course work, this I think is unfair on some students who do not have the facilities, room, equipment or environment to do such at home.

      Far, far better in my opinion to have all work done within the structured environment of the school where there are reference facilities and qualified staff available.
      If students then want to complete additional research at home for themselves (which is not part of any coursework) then fine.

      Before teachers hold their hands up in horror do remember some schools do open at 8.00am for breakfast, and have after School Clubs.

      Thus there is no reason why the working School day should not be from 8.00am until 5.00 pm or 9.00am until 6.00pm. which is exactly the same as the hours worked in the commercial World.

      • lifelogic
        Posted April 14, 2014 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

        Indeed they seem to palm of much of the work and parents each evening. Also text books have some advantages over the internet as they are hopefully aimed at the right level and have a better degree of quality control. It also does not need the parents input, the printer, the ink and all the time wasted mucking about.

        Though many modern text books are full of basic errors and absurd over simplifications and seem to jump subjects – rather like a flea on a hot shovel.

      • Hope
        Posted April 14, 2014 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

        Private schools already provide some of this. And they give proper homework rather than the finish off what you were doing in class coursework nonsense.

        We have heard all this before in 1997, billions wasted and exams results fiddled to make it look as though education was improving. We now have an investigation taking place where it appears hard line Muslims have tried/are trying to take over schools, we already had universities allowing segregation in lectures while the Government is spending a fortune on consultation costs to understand radicalisation! It might have something to do with young impressionable minds being (too influenced?ed)? It is time to stop this sort of extremist encroachment into our education system, our laws and lives. Note to Baroness Warsi and Cameron this includes the financial industry as well.

      • uanime5
        Posted April 14, 2014 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

        Thus there is no reason why the working School day should not be from 8.00am until 5.00 pm or 9.00am until 6.00pm. which is exactly the same as the hours worked in the commercial World.

        Unless you’re going to pay teachers extra for working extra hours there is a reason why schools can’t be open for longer.

        • Excalibur
          Posted April 15, 2014 at 7:22 am | Permalink

          A characteristic left wing response from uanime5. Teaching is a calling. At my son’s prep school teachers took the pupils on rambles and other pursuits on their days off. They did not expect additional payment. Evening school was a regular feature.

          • Richard1
            Posted April 15, 2014 at 7:47 am | Permalink

            The contrast between the state and independent sectors on this issue is extraordinary, though the pay is the same or even higher in the state sector. At a state primary school I know, though the day is very short, the staff take a half day off each week, leaving the children under the charge of non-teacher assistants, for a staff conference. They are frequently absent through sick leave. At an independent school serving children of the same age, staff routinely work 8am to 6pm + Saturday mornings. Its a question of professionalism. The Blob has done terrible damage to teaching standards by allowing and encouraging union-driven restrictive practices in schools, to the great detriment of education for children.

          • Iain Gill
            Posted April 15, 2014 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

            My state school (many years ago now) had keen teachers who would do lots of stuff out of hours too, without expecting payment (although they did leverage the system to get some token payments from time to time I seem to remember). Lots of different stuff. My favourites were the sea canoeing, and canoe polo, both of which a small bunch of us became very good at. They were clever enough to match the pupil to their interests and strengths. I doubt you would get Mr Gove mandating sea canoeing top down, or indeed whether the health and safety mandarins would allow sea canoeing as a sport for school kids these days (our teachers although qualified to teach it were pushing the boundaries even then, but then they had proper jobs before going into teaching and were not about to be daunted by offialdom). Was one of the best bits of my school days, and taught far more than the actual raw skills. It’s best if it’s allowed to happen bottom up naturally according to the interests of the teachers and the children, let them follow their passion don’t ram things down their throats, but do put support in place for teachers who want to do such things.

        • alan jutson
          Posted April 15, 2014 at 8:21 am | Permalink

          All teachers say they have to work longer hours than the actual school day at the moment (at least that is the claim)

          So by making those hours official, why would they want more money.

          They would save time by not having to mark homework at home as so many claim they do at present.

  2. Lifelogic
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    It seems to me that if you are going to teach people to speak modern languages well, then you should start very early at primary school when children naturally pick languages up easily. After about ten it seems to be much harder. The majority who learn to speak languages well are people who have leaned it from a parent or have lived abroad when young and thus have had some incentive and thus have considerable advantage over others.

    The problem in England is which language(s) you bother to teach them. Of course in Wales they just ram Welsh into them, which does not seems to be a particularly useful activity to me when so few ever use it. Other than perhaps to read the new road signs very expensively installed or get a job in the huge PC state sector in Wales as diversity/equality officers or something.

    If you look at the maths and physics exams (which are very easy to compare) then the O levels of 40 years ago are clearly about the level of modern A levels. In many ways they are rather worse with political correctness, renewable energy (not even a scientific term) and the global warming exaggeration religion inserted all over. There is almost nothing in them to make one actually think or question, nor anything to separate out the brighter students. You can currently get everything right with almost straight memory.

    Anyone questioning or being remotely sceptic is certainly not likely to be rewarded. The marking schemes are often poorly designed and rather too rigid too.

    I would concentrate on real science, arithmetic, maths, compound interest, probability, statistics, practical skills (building, cooking, engineering, maintenance) an understanding of computers & programming, English (perhaps with revised, more rational and less prescribed notation/spelling) art and music. Music mainly as it can give so much pleasure so cheaply.

    The other reform needed is to allow teachers freedom. Who would want to be a teacher when all is so proscribed, endless paperwork and all hemmed in by government decree. All seems to be aimed at these rather trivial and often rather silly exams. How can one enthuse people to actually think and want to learn without rather more freedom to inspire and enthuse?

    • Richard1
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

      I think its an exaggeration to say maths and physics A levels today are only at the level of O levels 40 years ago. Maths is a bit easier probably but O level never covered eg more than a v prelim intro to calculus. The physics syllabus I did myself years ago contained a fair bit of waffle and the modern syllabus covers – or at least allows pupils to explore – new areas such as nanotechnology and quantum mechanics which either didnt exist or were barely touched on 30 years ago.

      More rigour is a good idea generally and there clearly is a problem with children and students being led to believe that non rigorous psuedo academic subjects will carry anything like the same weight in employment markets, they would do much better with specific vocational training.

      I’m also concerned with politicization. We know that ‘global warming’ finds its way in all subjects from biology to geography to RE (where perhaps it has a place). A friend told me his daughter does history A level. One of the topics is ‘thatcher’ (absurd that events so recent count as history in school, and inviting of tendentious biased teaching) and the texts provided are relentlessly left-wing. Political proselytizing by the Blob must be outlawed.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted April 15, 2014 at 6:45 am | Permalink

        Just look at the exam papers they set in say 1970 and now. If anything the O level or GCSEs of the 70s were harder than the standard A level now. Rather better thought through questions too.

        • Richard1
          Posted April 15, 2014 at 7:49 am | Permalink

          I have. I think your conclusion is clearly wrong. Perhaps you have an exaggerated memory of how hard O level was?! I certainly agree GCSE is far below the old O level standard.

          • Lifelogic
            Posted April 15, 2014 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

            It is not so much the subject matter as the level of the questions asked. Try the additional maths JMB O level in about 1970.

            There is little actual thinking needed now just memory really.

    • uanime5
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

      If you look at the maths and physics exams (which are very easy to compare) then the O levels of 40 years ago are clearly about the level of modern A levels.

      Care to provide some evidence of this. Make sure that the quests you’re comparing are worth the same percentage of the exam paper (so you can’t compare a 1 point quest to a 20 point question).

      In many ways they are rather worse with political correctness, renewable energy (not even a scientific term) and the global warming exaggeration religion inserted all over.

      Just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean it’s not scientifically correct.

      You can currently get everything right with almost straight memory.

      The O-levels and old A-levels had the same problems, that’s why they introduced coursework and practical exams.

  3. Mike Stallard
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 6:18 am | Permalink

    Mr Redwood, you may think that EU Directives are baffling. Well, just try the A level syllabus for History. I am coaching three people across two different boards. It is so complicated with each paper seeming to test a different thing over a range of thousands of fragmented pieces.

    The other thing is that I know several boys who are in no way going to University. They do not want to. Their parents are presented with all sorts of pre printed school reports, Ritalin, Exclusion and “failure”. As soon as they get to College though and start to be treated like real boys with welding, mechanics in a largely male society, they suddenly get their self respect. Sending boys to what amounts to a girls’ school really doesn’t work.

    What we need back really badly for ordinary people is small schools. Men teachers thrived in the Secondary Modern. Sport was something you just had to do. People stayed with their lifelong friends. Nowadays they have reunions. Not everyone wants – or needs – to go to University. And it is these kinds of people who form the backbone of society.

    I notice that we have two such small schools here – for rejects. Perhaps working them up to Secondary Moderns might be a good move?

    • uanime5
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

      Well, just try the A level syllabus for History. I am coaching three people across two different boards. It is so complicated with each paper seeming to test a different thing over a range of thousands of fragmented pieces.

      History is a modular subject, so schools can chose which modules they want to teach. As a result if a school has to teach 2 of 6 modules they can chose from 15 different combinations of these modules.

  4. Lifelogic
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    At least Professor Mark E. Smith read natural sciences at Cambridge and has worked in industry in Germany so there is some hope.

    What is” understanding standard deviation in biology” is this not the same as everywhere else?

    In geography they should cover the history of climate and sea levels so as to give some context to the current absurd global warming hysteria religion.

    In physics and economics they should look at why, with current technology, renewable energy is usually such economic lunacy.

    Ancient languages are, I suspect, more about the class systems and the separation of state and public schools than real education I suspect. Still if people enjoy these odd hobbies, the danger is they all end up as ever more bloody lawyers and bureaucrats.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 7:34 am | Permalink

      Then again should the government and LEA have much input at all to education and exam the syllabuses (or is it syllabi under Gove). They tend to just use it for political indoctrination, to garner votes, other political ends, to create well paid jobs for bureaucrats, to boss people around or to give fine income from people leaving a day or two early for holidays.

      I suppose we need something to ensure some basic education for children from problem families but charities would probably do it rather better and far more efficiently.

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      Not just the green religion we need to keep out of schools but all silly indoctrination of young minds I tend to think.

    • uanime5
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

      In geography they should cover the history of climate and sea levels so as to give some context to the current absurd global warming hysteria religion.

      This is covered in geography; that why students who study geography know that the current climate change is happening much more rapidly than at any time in the past.

      In physics and economics they should look at why, with current technology, renewable energy is usually such economic lunacy.

      Given that current technology will be rendered useless when fossil fuels run out any study of science or economics would show that renewable energy is vital for the UK’s long term economic prospects.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted April 15, 2014 at 6:49 am | Permalink

        Nonsense on your first point and as fossil fuels run out and technology improves (many years off) the economics will clearly change (but we will probably use nuclear fusion instead by then).

      • Edward2
        Posted April 15, 2014 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

        “When fossil fuels run out”

        When will that be in left wing land?
        Do you know Uni that there are more reserves now than 50 years ago and that numerous “peak oil” doomsday warnings dates have already passed?
        Here we are in 2014 still with millions of tons of coal, millions of barrels of oil and finding surprise new gas reserves all the time.
        I was warned back in the 70’s in school and college that not only would there be a second ice age but that the combination of population growth and running out of fossil fuels would lead to the end of the world.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted April 15, 2014 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

          I think they said it would run out in about 1990 did they not?

  5. Anonymous
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    My boy is taking his GCSEs this year.

    There is no need for him to learn dates for history nor equations for maths nor formulae for physics, “They’re all provided in the exam papers.”

    The mock exams for his form produced, unsurprisingly, 100% A* from all of the students. Clearly they are not being stretched enough.

    (Nothing like in our day when GCEs really did show differences between students.)

    There was even an A* for Mandarin and yet my boy still can’t get much beyond “Hello. My name is…”

    It is shameful. Especially language teaching. There needs to be much more reliance on exam rather than coursework – on a good knowledge base. We need to get away from the idea that all children must aim for university.

    From students ahead of my own children, at university I understand that some of them are only getting 4 hours of lectures a week for their £9000 tuition fees. That makes for extremely expensive library charges.

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

      Indeed with the internet, video lectures, ebooks and the likes why on earth does it have to cost £9000+ PA to study most subjects at university – Maths, English, sociology, history …… only practical skills like engineering, vets some science and medicine need cost much more.

      It is really just a brand the better Universities are selling like a posh perfume cost nothing to make but put it in a posh bottle dress it in a gown and sell it for £50 an ounce. That or a posh dating service I suppose.

      Reply It costs a lot because it is labour intensive and the teachers all want salaries!

      • Lifelogic
        Posted April 14, 2014 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

        Yes but with the internet, video and technology one lecturer can present a very high quality lecture to millions. Not just an average lecture to perhaps 20. True we need tutors, exams, and similar but 4 hours a week of lectures for perhaps 30 weeks PA works out at £1500 per lecture assuming 20 present. It we use video and have 100,000 viewers then one can afford to spent £7.5M on producing the one hour lecture. People can watch it on on the computer without even needng a lecture theatre and even with interactive questioning, rewind or further examples if you did not follow something first time!

        Why on earth do they ration entry to potential students who could fully pay their way and could cope with the course. Universities are only education businesses after all (oh and providers of usually lefty “experts” to governments).

        It is like rationing books would they do that too?

        • uanime5
          Posted April 14, 2014 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

          Yes but with the internet, video and technology one lecturer can present a very high quality lecture to millions.

          Most universities lecturers not only have lectures but also hold study groups to ensure that students understand the topics. Study groups can’t be replicated by watching a video.

          Not just an average lecture to perhaps 20.

          Most university classes teach 50-100 students on undergraduate courses.

          Why on earth do they ration entry to potential students who could fully pay their way and could cope with the course.

          Well the coalition did vote to raise tuition fees at a time when most European universities are lowering their fees. Apparently it saves money in the short term because it’s not considered a loss unless if hasn’t been paid back after 30 years.

        • Iain Gill
          Posted April 14, 2014 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

          The Nottingham university chemistry department has many fantastic videos up on YouTube. Search on the videos posted by “Periodic Videos”. These are outstanding, seem to have started originally kind of accidentally, and now have a worldwide following. I suggest this kind of world class stuff is exactly what children should be exposed to. It brings fun to a complex subject. The Nottingham team are exactly the kinds of people who should be in New Year’s honours lists instead of the rather predictable establishment names. I would direct Mr Gove to Nottingham to seek their advice.

          • Lifelogic
            Posted April 15, 2014 at 7:00 am | Permalink

            Indeed well done Nottingham.

            Yes the Honours Lists are usually dreadful, bureaucrats, time servers, green loons, ex-politicians, actors, sports people, tokens for each religion and tv personalities, lefty loons, suckers up to government, lefty economists, lefty pop musicians, part donors and the likes.

            Only a few engineers, the odd sound business person and the odd medical men to lift the standard. What about Richard Dawkins for example?

          • Lifelogic
            Posted April 15, 2014 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

            I mean as an example of someone who should have one!

        • Lifelogic
          Posted April 15, 2014 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

          It does not have to be labour intensive now with new technology.

  6. arschloch
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    Yes but where are the jobs at the end of your education? I have an Indian colleague whose son has good A levels in hard science based subjects and an upper second degree from a real university (not a former college of further education) Problem is John his degree subject is IT. Currently he cannot get a break into that field because the government (allows in many ICT employees on temporary visas ed). Neo Lib economics discriminates against everybody in the UK in its belief in the need for the “free movement of (cheap) labour”. In the meantime he has a min wage job fitting plugs on kettles and sits in the hope that companies like RBS, after their well publicised difficulties, soon see the error of their ways in using (non UK services ed).

    • libertarian
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

      Dear Arschloch

      Please steer clear of the jobs market. Its not a subject you have any familiarity with.

      You are wrong IT jobs are massively plentiful. There are incredibly few IT work visas issued for the simple reason that there is a plentiful supply of IT graduates from the EU if wanted and they don’t need visa’s. However most employers seek local people which is why today there is 383,463 IT job vacancies ( oh and no they aren’t part time, minimum wage or zero hour contracts or any of the other myths peddled about jobs)

      Take a look http://www.indeed.co.uk/jobs?q=IT&l=

      • uanime5
        Posted April 14, 2014 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

        Dear libertarian

        Your claim that the majority of these IT jobs aren’t part time, minimum wage or zero hour contracts is incorrect. If you just search IT jobs you get 383,432 jobs. If you search IT jobs with a salary of at least £12,300 (minimum wage for 37.5 hours work per week) you get 245,991. So a third of these jobs either pay less than minimum wage or are part time.

        If you search for the average wage of £26,000 the number of jobs further drops to 149,644.

        • a-tracy
          Posted April 15, 2014 at 10:46 am | Permalink

          Not all jobs are registered with the Job Centre, in fact most higher paid jobs are registered with specialised recruitment agencies in those fields. They don’t have to have a national register of every vacancy. So checking how many jobs are paid over £20,000 pa with a job centre isn’t an accurate study.

        • libertarian
          Posted April 15, 2014 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

          Uanime5

          It would help if you knew how to search properly. Just because the search criteria that you used isn’t matched DOESN’T mean that the rest fall below that level. It means that the salary is either not disclosed or is registered in a different way ie as an hourly, daily or weekly rate.

          In fact the average wage in IT in the UK is £30k and less than 1% of IT jobs are at minimum wage & less than 3% of IT jobs are part time.

          I’m sure there may be one or two but I’ve never come across a zero hour contract in IT.

          Here is salary breakdown

          £20,000+ (198281)
          £40,000+ (75225)
          £60,000+ (29074)
          £80,000+ (14442)
          £100,000+ (7943)

          No wonder you can’t find a job !

      • Arschloch
        Posted April 14, 2014 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

        another slack day down the job centre plus?

        • libertarian
          Posted April 15, 2014 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

          Ha ha

          You are so funny Arschloch. I notice you never bother to respond with facts or arguments. Just schoolboy name calling. You do make yourself look silly.

      • Iain Gill
        Posted April 14, 2014 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

        This is absolute nonsense.
        There are lots and lots of skilled British IT workers out of work.
        There are also lots and lots of skilled British IT freelancers working much less of the year than they would prefer.
        There are also lots and lots of well qualified British Computing graduates unable to find work in their chosen profession.
        Meanwhile we have uncapped numbers of non EC nationals coming in to be used as cheap labour in IT. Mainly using intra company transfer visas so that none of the checks and balances of the other work visa classes apply. Mainly working for the outsourcers, and supplied into other corporates for less than they can hire Brits. Mainly working for below market rates (as even officially they only need lower quartile pay averaged over the whole UK which in the South East is a significantly poor pay rate, not to mention many of the manipulations). Not to mention they get to work the first 12 months free of any national insurance, they get significant payments tax free as supposed expenses which Brits working away from home within the UK cannot get. Not to mention than many are engaged in moving British projects, intellectual property, and so on back to their home country where the outsourcers can take over British jobs.
        You are either delusional, badly informed, or on the payroll of the lobbying organisations (hired by the outsourcers) hitting the political and journalistic class with such nonsense. I regard such wilful nonsense as treason against the British people.
        I know this business inside out, you are talking complete and utter BS.

        • libertarian
          Posted April 15, 2014 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

          Ian Gill

          You know this business inside out??? Really so why are you talking total drivel?

      • Iain Gill
        Posted April 14, 2014 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

        And not only do you not understand the IT business you don’t appear to understand recruitment either. Mostly the jobs boards are full of speculative ad’s by recruitment agencies fishing for CV’s, they will post hundreds of ad’s for every genuine vacancy they have. and 30 recruitment agencies will be trying to fill one real vacancy with their end client. And so on. So the numbers of jobs advertised bears little or no relationship to those really available. Also we have the outsourcers posting ad’s at far below market rates to build evidence that they had no takers, and seemingly there are no qualified Brits available, as an excuse for bringing in ever more foreign workers. and so on and so on. So those ad’s need to be read with an understanding of the underlying dynamics.

        • arschloch
          Posted April 15, 2014 at 10:06 am | Permalink

          Iain and U how do you question libertarian he is an “employment expert”. However he does not tell us his qualifications or where he works as an “expert” just to validate his claims. Lib perhaps you can get in touch and tell my mate’s son where he can get a top paying IT job?

          • libertarian
            Posted April 15, 2014 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

            Arschloch

            In fact in the last thread I posted against one of your silly schoolboy comments I told you exactly why I know about the UK job market. You chose to ignore it. Yes I CAN help your sons friend find an IT job.

            I own 5 of the top specialist recruitment publications in UK

          • Iain Gill
            Posted April 17, 2014 at 8:42 am | Permalink

            libertarian,

            you are delusional.

            you clearly don’t read the forums frequented by experienced IT pros as their overwhelming majority confirm my view.

            and I have wide experience in many parts of the business.

            you on the other hand are either lying or walking around with blinkers on.

        • libertarian
          Posted April 15, 2014 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

          Dear IanGill

          Oh dear, that is so laughable. Where have you been for the last 20 years?

          Rec agencies have absolutely no need to PAY to advertise jobs they don’t have. If you knew the first thing about IT or recruitment you would know that. If they wanted CV’s ( it doesn’t dawn on your warped logic why they would need cv’s if there aren’t any jobs as you suggest) they can purchase them from the job boards cheaper .
          than it costs to advertise.

          In IT recruitment there are now PSL’s and Managed services so no in fact there aren’t very many multiple adverts for the same role.

          There is a massive shortage of skilled IT/digital workers and no employers don’t import that many from outside the EU.

          Er the outsource companies tend not to be base in the UK. Blimey you have zero knowledge of the market at all.

          • Iain Gill
            Posted April 15, 2014 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

            You are mixing me up with someone who has no clue.

            So tell me how many foreign workers do the following companies have in the UK? ie here with work visa, include those given the visas in previous years but still allowed to work here, and spouses of work visa holders entitled to work here by virtue of being the spouse

            (names of individual companies left out – the question is best posed to all companies in the field ed)
            Split between intra company transfer visas and other types of work visa?

            How many of their other staff originally entered this country on a work or student visa and have gained indefinite leave to remain or British citizenship simply for working here a number of years?

            How many of their total UK headcount is body shopped directly into the IT department of another UK large corporate, displacing Brits from the workforce?

            How many of their IT projects are they doing by using predominately intra company transfer visas holders thereby undercutting any British IT shop using only British workers?

            How many of their staff are engaged in moving British intellectual property abroad?

            Lets see if you have any clue as to the magnitude of whats going on?

          • Iain Gill
            Posted April 15, 2014 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

            Re “they can purchase them from the job boards cheaper than it costs to advertise.” Yes but they also pay to place jobs adverts on the jobs boards.
            Re “there are now PSL’s and Managed services” purchasing techniques attempting to push the cost of headcount down which largely fails with complex skills in a dynamic marketplace. Lots good to the MBA’s but causes lots of problems with project delivery as the right bums don’t end up on the right seat often enough.
            Re “in fact there aren’t very many multiple adverts for the same role.” Complete and utter fantasy. I personally get to find out exactly what’s going on as I have been both the recruiters, and the candidate, and I can see very well what’s going on by the agency responses.
            Re ” There is a massive shortage of skilled IT/digital workers” at the junior level caused by giving most entry level jobs to foreign workers so that British potential students can see the writing on the wall and don’t want to study suitable subjects leading to less candidates at raw grad level. Entry level jobs mostly going to foreign workers leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy that as they age there are fewer British candidates at more senior levels. Although the politicians keep giving the foreign workers British passports so that they can claim there are more Brits in the ranks.
            At the senior levels again we have accountants and MBA spreadsheet merchants dominating. Sure it looks cheaper to use outsourcers but the quality of delivery drops, as is happening everywhere. Have a look at the web forums used by experienced pros and you will see there are lots out of work or jumping ship and working abroad because they cannot find work here.
            Re ” Er the outsource companies tend not to be base in the UK” yes they are based all over. The company they are using to trade in the UK is normally registered in a tax haven so that they don’t have to file accounts.
            You are sadly making a mistake as I know the fine nuts and bolts far better than you do.
            If you do own 5 large recruitment publications then you sure have little grip of what is happening at the coalface of the IT business.

          • Libertarian
            Posted April 16, 2014 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

            Oh dear Iain Gill.

            Have you ANY idea of total job market size?

            I can’t directly answer you very precise and pointless question as the names were edited out. But frankly it doesn’t matter. Even if 100% of workers in the companies you named were overseas workers its still a vanishingly small part of the market.

            The VAST majority of IT jobs are now found in SME’s and NO they don’t import Non EU workers.

            Your ignorance of the recruitment market and your warped logic are astounding.

            You told me with no evidence what so ever that agencies pay to advertise jobs they don’t have in order to gain cv’s to put up for jobs that don’t exist and that when there are vacancies they are filled by NON EU workers on visas !!! Have you bothered to think about what you’ve written?

            IF agencies wanted to gather cv’s they can pay to download them from job boards so why would they advertise non existent jobs ( which is illegal) ???? Have you never heard of LinkedIN?

            You are confusing the organisation in which you work with the market as a whole. IF you see multiple adverts for the same job from different agencies that is possible as the average PSL may have 10 agents, but that would be the limit of the “problem”

            You are also trying to confuse your own opinions with the market overall as well as introducing other areas into the argument that aren’t relevant, Ie Outsourcing/project management etc.

            I’m telling you that there are something approaching 500,000 job vacancies in UK IT. The breakdown on the ONE board I showed you has a salary breakdown on the front page. Suggest you read it and get back to me about entry level jobs.

            In fact the reason that graduates struggle is because there is a massive need for EXPERIENCED people with practical hands on skills. Especially in software development, UX, advanced graphics and digital media.

            You think you know something about a total market based on your limited knowledge about an incredibly small part of it.

            For your info I’ve worked in IT for more than 40 years. I’ve worked as an IT freelancer ( with an active role fighting IR35) I built and sold a highly successful IT contractor business with more than 200 IT contractors ( NONE on overseas visas ) before launching my publications 15 years ago. I think I have a pretty broad view of this market, I certainly have real time data. I think you need to take a look outside of your own small part of the market.

            On the question of the use of Outsourced companies. This is almost totally irrelevant to the job market about which I’m educating you. However for the avoidance of doubt I am not a fan of outsourced services. I was for many years a Director of an IT trade association that actively sought to discourage this practice. However it has NO baring on the overall UK job market in IT

          • libertarian
            Posted April 16, 2014 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

            Iain Gill

            Thought you might like this. It reinforces what I’ve been telling you. Have a read.

            JR our host might find this interesting too

            Wokingham has the highest cluster of Tech jobs in UK it outstrips the UK average by 5 ( five) times.

            More than 50% of IT workers are employed by non tech companies.

            Tech companies report job growth will GROW by 38% this year

            As I’ve been telling you for some time IT job prospects in the UK are very buoyant

            http://www.kpmg.com/UK/en/IssuesAndInsights/ArticlesPublications/Documents/PDF/Market%20Sector/Technology/tech-monitor-uk.pdf

            For those that were also telling me I’m wrong about IT graduate employment which now sees average starting salaries ( Uanime5 take note) are £26250 and the industry average salary is now £37920

            http://www.prospects.ac.uk/IT_and_information_services_sector_overview.htm

            Enjoy

            Oh Mr Gill I’ve no idea what you do for a living but as well as 5 publications I also own 2 very successful software businesses so I think I have a much better grasp of the IT coalface than you ever will.

  7. David
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    It sounds quite good. On the subject of history could children learn about all the times that (pirates from the Barbary coast ed) attacked the UK to get slaves?
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/empire_seapower/white_slaves_01.shtml

  8. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    It sounds good , but the proof of the pudding is in what standards it produces.I still do not think that all exams should be taken at a set time of the year. I would like an option for exams to be staggered as time evolves thereby reducing stress. I would also like to know what proportion of a subject would be given to exam results and modules. Modules are a method of ensuring children are kept in touch every week with the subject. For example when I was learning to play the piano I had to practice every day in order to pass a grade. If I did not practice, the performance at exam time was not as good.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

      Exams in the UK should certainly be in the dark winter months, it is far too nice in the warm, long June days to be revising. Especially revising much of the nonsense they often now teach.

      Then there is hay fever for many to suffer too.

  9. Elliot Kane
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    I’d prefer to see 60% British History rather than 40% for the GCSEs, but the rest of it sounds like an excellent step forward.

    It’s not mentioned, but I would hope that exams will take proper notice of both correct spelling and grammar, as general standards have degenerated appallingly in both over recent years.

    A return to the rigour of the old O levels is long overdue, IMO.

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

      It this40% of British History written by the British, the English, the Irish, the Americans, Indians or endless other nations’ perspective or by the working class or the ruling class.

      I think I have had more than enough of the Tudors from my three children to last a life time.

  10. Ex-expat Colin
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    Presume primary school education adequately supports the entry at GCSE.

    Presume that all distractions in class are properly controlled by teacher. Something like 2 strikes and your gone.

    I have seen 5 education types in my life:

    1. Primary/Sec performing teach all subjects (too many)
    2. Military type (teach to targeted requirements and tailored 3R’s, get O levels/ONC on the way)
    3. Tech College (Dull in the wrong teaching hands – underfunded)
    4. University (Dull lecturing and many useless subjects – terrible)
    5. (Correspondence (Not OU) – very good/well targetted)

    Regular testing – imperative. Identify stragglers and get them going – some teachers solely for that purpose.

    There is merit in course work/Vote for Joe but not as contributor to final.

    Get rid of these awful University’s as much as possible – get back to Tech College/vocational. Stop the crazy build up of debt.

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

      Indeed more technical colleges and make people pay for their own hobby subjects at University (about 70% of subjects covered). Especially as most student loans, especially those to woman with career breaks and hobby subject graduates will not ever be repaid.

    • Iain Gill
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

      Re “all distractions in class are properly controlled” one of the biggest issues with the state system is the way it tends to keep the most disruptive pupils in mainstream classes. It doesn’t work for the disruptive child and it does not work for the majority. Really you would think all these PPE grads would be able to work out a solution? If we just gave parents the buying power you can be sure their commercial pressure would force change on this and other obvious points.

  11. Iain Gill
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    Issues:
    1 – Cheating in coursework is now completely out of hand. Plagiarism and parents doing the coursework is now more common than the child doing it themselves. We need a real rebalance. Marked coursework which makes up part of your certificate grade needs a radical rethink.
    2 – Where has “Engineering Drawing” gone from the syllabus? Sure most real world drawings are done using CAD/CAD software these days… But an understanding of the way these drawings work and represent the 3D world is important in our skills portfolio. It’s not just necessary for traditional engineering, it’s also import for electronic chip understanding. The syllabus and the way the mandatory subjects are heading seems to be as you would expect when a trendy liberal elite are choosing them.
    3 – Far too much bias in the system now towards girls. It is completely factual to say that girls and boys remember things in different ways, have different strengths and weaknesses, different visualisation of spacial attributes, and so on. It’s perfectly possible to design tests which favour one sex or another, and at the moment my view is that the current system systematically favours girls in all sorts of ways. This may be the victory the feminist movement was looking for, myself I would like to see some rebalance and some equality for boys.
    4 – I am not aware of any school teachers (state or public schools) qualified to teach proper computer science. It doesn’t matter what you put in the syllabus with that in mind.
    5 – Personally I would like each exam certificate to show you’re marking relative to your peers in your school. So that if you were in the top few of a bog standard comp of thousands sitting the exam getting say a B grade, there was some way of comparing favourably with a public school pupil somewhere where every single pupil was getting an A or B grade. I think relative grade would be a useful addition to the raw mark.
    6 – The way dyslexia is used by certain sectors of society to buy extra time in exams for their children needs sorting out. It is common knowledge you can buy a dyslexia diagnosis for ANY child with the right private doctor, and this allows perks such as extra time in exams. This is massive bias in the system for pushy parents that needs fixing. It is a real bias against clever kids with less pushy parents.
    7 – The way schools appeal results also needs fixing. Appeals almost always result in marks improving. Some types of schools almost always appeal much more than other types of schools. This again is bias in the system for some schools over others. This bias needs fixing. Sure there needs to be a mechanism to appeal in genuine cases, but this should not be allowed to bias the whole system to some schools year on year.
    8 – The religious stuff in school selection continues to worry me. I think this ripples through to exams too. I would prefer a genuine meritocracy throughout.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

      “Personally I would like each exam certificate to show you’re marking relative to your peers in your school.”

      Exactly get rid of grade inflation and just say Miss X in History or Maths was in the bottom 89th percentile or the 2nd percentile of entrants as applicable. Then publish the average level of entrants as some subject have a higher level or entrants than others. Take it out of the hands of the fiddlers.

      • Iain Gill
        Posted April 14, 2014 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

        Sure show marks as a raw percentage mark and rank across all exam entrants nationwide, but also show as a rank against all entrants from that entrants specific school. I want the best pupil in maths in a large bog standard comp to be obvious. 1st in maths out of 2000 is a pretty good result regardless of their more traditional result being less impressive against our public school friends, and the same for all the other subjects.

    • uanime5
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

      Plagiarism and parents doing the coursework is now more common than the child doing it themselves.

      Most parents lack the knowledge needed to do all their children’s coursework, as they’ve usually forgotten most of what they’ve learned in school.

      It is completely factual to say that girls and boys remember things in different ways, have different strengths and weaknesses, different visualisation of spacial attributes, and so on.

      Don’t forget about enjoying learning in different environments and using different methods.

      It’s perfectly possible to design tests which favour one sex or another, and at the moment my view is that the current system systematically favours girls in all sorts of ways.

      Studies have also shown that when women mark essay questions they tend to give girls more marks than boys.

      • Edward2
        Posted April 15, 2014 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

        “Most parents lack the knowledge needed to do all their children’s coursework, as they’ve usually forgotten most of what they’ve learned in school”

        Hold on Uni, many of the top marks our children have got, are due to the excellent help and coaching of their Grandparents, let alone us.
        We may forget to lock a door or where our glasses are, but not algebra or economics or Tudor history!

  12. formula57
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    The obvious grade inflation of the recent past no doubt was undermining and so measures to address must be welcome.

    Whether it is desirable to introduce all of the proposed changes at once is not clear: some prima facie seem good, others less so. Who knows? – well probably not anyone responsible for running the system in the last twenty years or so.

    Right though it must be to address concerns about ‘A’ levels equipping students to cope with transmission to undergraduate courses, of far greater urgency must be all those students for whom the education system is a trial and from which they emerge ill-prepared to cope with the demands they will face in later life. Mr Gove’s actions so far as they are explained in the statement you quote do not seem relevant to that.

  13. Andyvan
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    A total failure to see the wood for the trees. Why do we need a centrally planned education system designed by politicians? The single group on this planet that is most unsuited to deciding what children are taught. The problems with education will never be solved by top down edicts controlling exams or teaching methods or anything else. All that does is give us a socialist, big brother, one size fits all pseudo education. Gove claims to want to give schools freedom. OK do that. Give vouchers to parents who can use them in any school anywhere in the country. Remove all rules and regulation on how schools teach and let parents and pupils decide what is good for them. A diverse and varied spectrum of teaching methods and subjects unfettered by political interference is by far the best system possible. In short my message to Mr Gove and all the other meddlers and do gooders is get out of my child’s life (and mine as well).

    • Posted April 14, 2014 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

      I agree. In fact I would go further and abolish school altogether from the age of 14. By their 15th birthday, all young people should have passed all the elements of a School Leaving Certificate; a cetificate of competence to deal with the adult world NOT of academic excellence. Once passed, they should go to teachers of their choice to learn the things that they wish to learn (rather as young people do now with music lessons etc.). No single school can possibly teach at ‘secondary’ level all the possible combinations of subjects to suit the individual needs of each pupil with his/her own abilities, aptitudes and inclinations. Some may wish to pursue academic studies, others practical skills prior to gaining apprenticeships and others art, design theatre and all the other creative possibilities.
      Continuing to study centrally controlled curricula leads to what one secondary school teacher succinctly put it: ” Education in this country will never function effectively until pupils, at least at secondary level, can choose their areas of study and do not spend every day wastefully being forced to learn much of what they do not want to know.”
      More may be learned by reading ‘Wot , No School? how schools impede education’

      • uanime5
        Posted April 14, 2014 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

        Once passed, they should go to teachers of their choice to learn the things that they wish to learn (rather as young people do now with music lessons etc.). No single school can possibly teach at ‘secondary’ level all the possible combinations of subjects to suit the individual needs of each pupil with his/her own abilities, aptitudes and inclinations.

        How is the logistics of this going to work? If a pupil is studying multiple subjects in different schools how are they going to ensure that everything is timetabled so none of these subjects clash and that they’ll be able to get from one school to another school in time for their lessons?

        Having pupils pick one school and learning all their subjects there is a far better solution.

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

      I tend to agree, they are more likely to indoctrinate than educate. They do not really want people to think much, just work and pay tax.

    • Iain Gill
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

      Agreed.

      Force the schools to depend for the parents for their income will mostly generate good change.

      Ban selection on postcode and religion too but allow schools to select on academic merit.

    • Narrow Shoulders
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

      Pupil funding is complex with the additional funds attracted by free school meal pupils (including pupil premium), special educational needs, mobility and English as an additional language. A voucher for each parent for the value of their pupil to the school would show the disparity of funding for each demographic (I am guessing that your child [should you have them of the relevant age] would attract the minimum funding possible. Would you then be able to pay for your child’s place in the school with a voucher if the average funding awarded per pupil in the school is more than your voucher?

      A voucher system would also make apparent the large variance of funding between primary pupils and secondary pupils with secondary students getting around 30% more baseline funding than primary. Surely spending the money at a young age when difference can be more easily reacted to and corrected is a better way to spend the funds.

    • libertarian
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

      Andyvan

      Not for the first time I agree totally.

      This obsession with target based exam nonsense has no use what so ever when it comes to the job market. Our politicians are living 100 years in the past and the centralised control freakery is the problem not the solution. As for the people asking for the return of 1950’s O levels hey why stop there why not insist all lessons are taught in latin?

      The small minority that want to go to university should sit university entrance exams. The rest should be assessed with a competence certificate in reading, writing and maths. Thats it. Then get a job or study vocational qualifications via an apprenticeship or college. maybe if we weren’t obsessed with pointless exams kids would actually enjoy school a little more and actually learn something useful

    • uanime5
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

      Give vouchers to parents who can use them in any school anywhere in the country. Remove all rules and regulation on how schools teach and let parents and pupils decide what is good for them.

      Given that parents and pupils will only know if this education was good after these pupils have finished this education both have no way of knowing while in education whether this education is good for them or not.

      A diverse and varied spectrum of teaching methods and subjects unfettered by political interference is by far the best system possible.

      Then why isn’t this method used by countries that rank higher than the UK on International league tables?

      • APL
        Posted April 15, 2014 at 7:27 am | Permalink

        uanime5: “How is the logistics of this going to work?”

        In tones of outraged shock!

        It would work in the same way the market works. Individuals making individual choices.

        uanime5: “Given that parents and pupils will only know if this education was good after these pupils have finished this education”

        Not true, the reputation of a school is very well known amoung those parents who are about to (have their children ) sen(d/t) there. Parents will go to some lengths to get their child into a ‘good school’.

        • Edward2
          Posted April 15, 2014 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

          Indeed APL I agree.
          The closed mind of the socialist is seen here. No trust in the people.
          The State knows best…just do as you are told.
          Your child will be posted to a school that suits the local education authority.
          I like many millions of other parents am quite capable of deciding which is the best local school. Their reputation is a regular source of local conversation.

          • APL
            Posted April 15, 2014 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

            Edward2: “No trust in the people.”

            That is because ‘people’ acting in their own interests in ‘the market’ produce results that the totalitarians cannot abide.

            They are always trying to get ‘the right result’ which invariably results in the worst of all possible worlds.

  14. Posted April 14, 2014 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    If there is one subject that I’m critical in the teaching of, it has to be Economics.

    Its a worldwide problem, the UK isn’t alone. I’ve just been looking through the A level syllabus and, as far as I can see, there’s no mention of what modern money, or fiat money, is, why it has a value and where it comes from.

    http://www.aqa.org.uk/subjects/business-studies/a-level/economics-2140/subject-content

    Maybe I’ve missed it. If so, I’d be pleased if someone could point it out to me!

    Trying to study Economics without knowing the very basics is like trying to study Physics or Chemistry without knowing what atoms are.

    It’s no wonder Economies tend to get into such a mess!

    • Lifelogic
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

      This is a bit like the usual BBC problem. It is always saying what people want to hear rather than telling the truth.

      Most economists, especially on the BBC, seem to take this magic government money tree/lets be nice with other people’s money line.

      • APL
        Posted April 15, 2014 at 7:29 am | Permalink

        Lifelogic: “It is always saying what people want to hear ..”

        And why do they want to hear that particular perspective? Because the BBC has spent a generation preparing them for just that.

        Talk about a vicious circle.

  15. Colin
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    No doubt this will be an improvement on what has gone before in many respects, but we really ought to be getting the state out of education as far as possible – make all schools independent and bring in a voucher system, for a start. The state should not be prescribing the content of education – as Herbert Spencer said, that is tyrannical.

  16. Douglas Carter
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    I doubt anyone would sincerely oppose greater academic standards in terms – the obstacle is not the exams themselves but the education that leads to them.

    It means you’re going to be taking on the Teaching Unions – don’t doubt that some teachers would be willing to let such a dispute reach Wapping levels of violence and acrimony to defend their ivory towers.

    Reply That’s a very harsh comment on teachers who have no history of violence.

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

      Indeed they have no history of violence but it is true that useless teachers are allowed to continue (not) educating countless children for year after year and almost never get fired.

      Clearly you need to pay physics and maths teacher more than other teachers if you want good ones. Also teachers in the South East and London rather more too. That might not go down too well with the unions though.

  17. intonsus
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    This issue is not one that government should be involved in. Examinations for the purpose of university entrance should be set by the universites. All that government should be doing is legislating that children should attend school, and that the schools teach them to read, write, and figure. All the rest is for local government, employers, universities, and parents.

    • forthurst
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

      “This issue is not one that government should be involved in. Examinations for the purpose of university entrance should be set by the universites.”

      Exactly so. I have no reason to believe that Professor Mark E. Smith has not performed his task with exemplary skill, but in the bad old days, the universities did set the O and A (and S) exams and e.g. the NUJB would set exams by consultation amongst all the relevant university departments; they were presumably then able to use the results to award places at their respective institutions without a lottery. Also in the bad old days, universities could immediately start to teach their student university level work without any form of remediation, possibly cutting out an unnecessary year or more that had been interposed to this purpose, because the A level result had established that that level had been attained. The GCSE would then be required to prepare pupils for the more rigorous two year A level course.

      The best way of improving standards in schools is to increase the scope and difficulty of exams, so that both pupils and teachers are forced to pull up their bootstraps. However, an exam that was rigorous enough to select pupils for a Russell group university, might be too demanding where the expectation was for fifty percent of students attending a ‘university’ and all pupils to leave with at least GCSE certificates; this latter problem is probably why exams were degraded in the first place, so Mr Gove needs to come up with further solutions to complete his task.

      • uanime5
        Posted April 14, 2014 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

        The best way of improving standards in schools is to increase the scope and difficulty of exams, so that both pupils and teachers are forced to pull up their bootstraps.

        You’ll also need to have more essays and coursework; so universities won’t need to spend so much time teaching students how to write essays, research sources, and cite these sources.

  18. Atlas
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    I think they are a step on the right way. Mind you as you personally may be aware, there is a difference between rote learing – as for example university undergraduate courses (because anything taught has to be answerable in a 3 hour long examination) – and university post-graduate research studies where the ability to think about and around what may be unanswerable is required.

    I found that having a scientific hobby set the ground for me to be able to do research at a Russell group university. That is, to use the mathematicians language, “School was necessary but not sufficient”.

  19. Tad Davison
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    I have three kids who are fortunately very intelligent, either having been to university, or are in the process of getting a degree. Throughout their education, my wife and I have been appalled at how lax the education system is compared to our time at school, and as good parents, we made sure their education was augmented, and we did not rely solely on the state.

    ANYTHING that improves on Labour’s utterly dismal record is a good thing. They betrayed an entire generation in the pursuit of vanity. They had to look good, and kids had to be seen to be getting higher marks than the previous administration, even if it meant dumbing down. Labour’s education policy, like so much of everything they did in office, was an absolute sham if not a scam.

    Tad Davison

    Cambridge

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      Indeed I agree fully. It was the Labour politics of all shall have prizes then they might vote Labour too.

      It is not at all surprising that you have intelligent children.

      I remember getting a mark and a position in form for all my subjects each term, usually I was about last in French and first in Maths and Sciences. I never met any French people apart from one onion seller once – so there did not seem that much point in leaning French when I could be playing football.

      In the end though I did need to pass it at O level (only just) for University.

    • Edward2
      Posted April 15, 2014 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

      I agree Tad with all you have said.
      The Labour Party with its “everyone must have a prize” attitude failed the very people who they should have been helping .

  20. David Murfin
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    “In the sciences, there will also be a new requirement that students must carry out at least 12 practical activities, ensuring that they develop vital scientific techniques and become comfortable using key apparatus. At the moment, some students can take a science A level without having any practical work assessed at all.”
    When I took A level physics in 1960, there was a practical exam to pass in which two experiments (out of a choice of 5, IIRC) had to be performed within the time specified (2hrs IIRC)
    (My scope was limited, as our teacher barred me from the experiment on sound as I was tone deaf, and all of us from choosing the heat experiment, on the grounds that there was too much scope for error – shades of AGW! )

  21. Posted April 14, 2014 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    What is missing from education these days is good technical education. All the emphasis that goes into education is based on the belief that it is necessary to go to university and get a degree.
    Our technical colleges offered alternative, well respected, qualifications in terms of the Ordinary and Higher National Certificates. This offered the less academic an alternative route for further education. I followed this route, working with part-time and evening studies and in due course obtained my HNC and additional subjects to become a member of the then IEE. At that time, employers, including the Civil Service, often preferred staff who had taken that route as they had both the practical experience and the theoretical knowledge to back it up.
    Germany, in particular, values its technical education, why don’t we?

    • Martyn G
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      @English Pensioner – I absolutely agree. Despite the oft expressed confidence of my primary teachers of my brilliance I failed the 11+ and thus went to secondary school. But was soon offered the chance to sit the entrance exam for tech school, which I passed and in time went on to tech college and higher things, my natural bent being practical and theoretical in what was then ‘wireless and electrical’ subjects. The only allowed devices in exams were the slide rule (remember them?), protractor, ruler and compasses and if one couldn’t write clearly and properly one got marked down.
      All that took me into a lifetime of full and well remunerated work, gaining respect and promotion along the way. Like you I am now very retired and glad to be so in this insane world where every tin-pot politician thinks that they alone know what is best for us. Bring back the tech colleges say I!

      • alan jutson
        Posted April 15, 2014 at 9:55 am | Permalink

        Martyn G

        Agree absolutely with your comments.
        Similar background as well, other than mine was in mechanical engineering, eventually gaining an HND.

  22. Leslie Singleton
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    As usual it’s the Socialist drive for identity that I cannot abide; simply because that is not the way the Good Lord and Mother Nature (or should it be Mother and Father Nature these days?) set thing up. The very word Degree now means little; yet there is wonder that starting Graduate salaries are going down. People like to be able to say they have a Degree, so the Labour Party, in true Miliband style, gave them one (50% goal at present),Mickey Mouse subjects and all. I don’t suppose it will be long before it is decided there are votes in giving everybody D.Phils and, heh, why stop there–everybody should be a Professor. On this latter, standards have so I understand already dropped and Professorships are being handed out more freely to compensate for lower salaries.

  23. pemawa
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Great to see more rigour instilled in most subjects, but the dangers and pressures to allow/encourage grade inflation have not been addressed.
    Why not introduce a direct statutory link between a given grade and the percentage of candidates in any year acheiving it? For example to obtain an A grade in a subject you would need to be in the top 7% , B grade for the next 20%, C grade next 25% etc, etc. If this were introduced an employer/HE provider would know where their prospective employee/undergradute stood against their peers nationally. This system would prevent grade inflation and ensure that schools”competed” to get their students top results. Come to think of it, maybe OFSTED could rate schools similarly!

    • Narrow Shoulders
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

      I have never understood why grading on the curve was abandoned. Benchmarking against peers is the only true measure of achievement. I do like the idea mentioned above of including grades achieved by those from one’s own school/area on the exam certificate to benchmark against one’s immediate peers to show how one performed in context of the cohort.

    • uanime5
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

      Why not introduce a direct statutory link between a given grade and the percentage of candidates in any year acheiving it?

      Because such a grade would be meaningless because one year you could get an A with 60% and the next year you’d need 90%. So it would be even less useful than the current system.

      Come to think of it, maybe OFSTED could rate schools similarly!

      Why would you use a system where many good schools would be rated badly simply because there are better schools available?

  24. Roy Grainger
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    It seems somewhat inconsistent on the one hand to promote the idea of free schools which are supposed to have greater flexibility to set their own curriculum emphasis and the way it is taught and on the other hand to effectively centrally dictate that curriculum through these exam reforms.

  25. Max Dunbar
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Use of the nebulous cliché ‘world-class’ fails the above passage Mr Gove.

  26. Roger Farmer
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Good for Michael Gove. Sadly, mid 2015 he looks like being out of a job, and the thin lipped of politics will be back in control. The political football, known as education, will then be kicked in a different direction. Those in charge will have an opportunity for further destruction. The political classes should be condemned to purgatory for what they have done to education since WW2.
    I was lucky many years ago in getting a scholarship to an educational powerhouse. In my final year , if I remember correctly, of 100 boys about 24 obtained state scholarships to Oxbridge, around 44 went to Oxbridge, the balance went to other universities bar three who went to the military colleges. The same lot were no slouches on the playing fields either. I can recall one MCC captain, two county captains, and the school winning the Eton Fives Championship. The fifteen won the sevens at I believe Richmond.
    Politicians deliberately set out to destroy such educational establishments. They ensured that bright children of impoverished parents could no longer take advantage of such schools by removing the Direct Grant system and then trying to destroy all grammar schools. To me these politicians were and are no more than the Kim Philbys of education and just as dangerous to the future of our country.
    My own school being well endowed and having the financial support of ex pupils can offer scholarships to bright pupils whose parents lack the means.
    I applaud what Michael Gove has put in place, but do not have any faith in future politicians not feeling the need to dumb it down yet again. My own school became so disenchanted with the present GCSE and A level system that they opted out, and into the International Baccalaureate instead. This has greater credibility at university and industry level.
    Michael Gove now needs to turn his focus on all those children whose talents are less academic and more vocational and ensure that we produce our own nurses, plumbers, and computer whiz kids, rather than having to import them. I would like to think that he can continue the good work after 2015 but I have no expectations.

  27. Bill
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    This seems to miss a vital point.

    Our exams should serve 2 purposes.

    Firstly, for employers to know whether a candidate has the numeracy and literacy skills for the job ie ‘can they read, write and add up’. This needs to be assessed rigorously against objective criteria. As our education system improves we would hope to see more and more students achieving the required standard.

    Secondly, we need to know who are the best and brightest of our generation. This is so that we can determine who should secure places at our most prestigious universities and who we will place in the most intellectually demanding professions.

    For this second purpose we should allocate top grades based not on absolute performance but based upon performance relative to one’s peers. As our education system improves we would hope to see the standard required for top grades get higher and higher.

    I don’t see this aspect covered in the reforms. I think it should be.

  28. Stephen O
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    From helping my children with their studies at GCSE, there are some other issues I can see need to be addressed.

    The quality of text books seems to have deteriorated with more errors, more reliance on examples and less on clear explanations (certainly in maths). If the subject matter is to increase in difficulty real care needs to go into ensuring the teaching materials are good enough.

    With dumbing down students still compete against each other so try as hard as before, but now their effort goes into avoiding errors (as they could all answer the questions on a good day) rather than answering difficult questions which their classmates can’t (as it used to be). There is much less learning value in that. Marking needs to distinguish carefully between answers which are wrong because the student had no idea what to do and those which they made an error early on which then carried all the way through, so even though the followed the correct procedure they ended up with the wrong result.

    So it is not just content which is important and needs to be improved, there is also the quality of teaching materials (text providers should be heavily penalised for errors), marking strategies and how students are tested.

    On languages has any thought gone into WHEN children are taught? We naturally learn language when we at primary school and before. Introducing a new language at secondary school when the peak language learning time has already passed makes little sense. If we really want children to become fluent they should be learning as early as possible.

    History should include a high level overview, which students are reminded of every year. So every period they study they understand it in a broader context.

    What about the International Baccalaureate? A few schools have adopted it. Is Michael Gove for or against it?

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

      Some science/maths text books are indeed appalling. Who writes them sociology graduates and global warming exaggerators it seems?

    • uanime5
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

      Marking needs to distinguish carefully between answers which are wrong because the student had no idea what to do and those which they made an error early on which then carried all the way through, so even though the followed the correct procedure they ended up with the wrong result.

      This already exists. That’s why in maths students get more marks based on how they worked out a maths problem than for getting the correct answer.

    • Iain Gill
      Posted April 15, 2014 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

      Yes languages needs to be taught to infants its far too late at secondary school.

      It seems there is a push to re establish language GCSE as a glass ceiling for children from the worst schools who have no hope whatsoever of passing.

      In my school nobody passed at languages exams unless they were lucky enough to have spent their summers abroad, or had external private teachers outside the school. The brightest kids would spend endless time reading in the library and so on, but languages is the only subject where you cannot learn on your own when in a rubbish school.

      Plus I don’t subscribe to the view languages is as essential as folk would have you believe, certainly the way taught in school. I’ve worked all around the world and usually picked enough up the best way interacting with the locals.

  29. Man of Kent
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    My particular concerns at the moment are with Geography and Religious Studies.

    Let’s hope that the possibility that the Environmentalists have it all wrong can be examined.
    Statistics and measured values must be the standard to judge Climate Change not future computer models and extrapolations of impending disaster.
    This would show that there has been no warming for 17 years 8 months despite rising CO2 levels.

    Religion seems to be studied in a piecemeal fashion .
    Better to study one religion in detail to discover the core beliefs and then compare with others .
    The established church should be the start point not an ‘also ran’.

    Next weekend is the culmination of Holy Week and the eagerly[?] awaited annual
    conference of the NUT where the new exam standards will no doubt be dissected and condemned after all a more rigorous system means more effort on the teachers’ part.

    Let’s hope this cynical view is upset as the NUT embraces the new standards with a vote of acclamation.

    • uanime5
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

      Statistics and measured values must be the standard to judge Climate Change not future computer models and extrapolations of impending disaster.

      Okay then let’s check out what the measured values say. The measured values say that the average global temperature has been rapidly rising for over a century, as have CO2 levels. There’s also proof that higher CO2 levels trap more heat, resulting in the average global temperature increasing. Therefore the evidence shows that high CO2 levels do result in higher temperatures.

      This would show that there has been no warming for 17 years 8 months despite rising CO2 levels.

      If you’d actually checked the data you’d see that there has been warming during this time period.

      • Man of Kent
        Posted April 15, 2014 at 9:10 am | Permalink

        Point 1
        It is sad that you believe the temperature has been rising rapidly for over a century.
        After much prevarication by the Met Office, in answer to a recent question in the House of Lords ,they confirmed that the temperature had risen 0.8 deg C over the past 100 years.
        Hardly alarming.
        When asked whether this was statistically significant , after more prevarication ,they said ‘NO’

        Point 2 .
        There are many temperature series to cherry pick from .
        Warmists are well practised in this and in mis-representing data.
        For example the discredited hockey stick which sadly you still seem to believe in.
        I prefer a rigorous scientist’s assessment based statistically on the data-
        please read Christopher Monckton’s contributions on this subject.

        Until we can have a serious debate with statistics and data, which the warmist , government backed pseudo scientists and the BBC will not permit ,views such as yours will never be challenged publicly.

        At long last we have had the Clegg-Farage debates on the EU shown on LBC and BBC, but only because Clegg wanted them.
        These brought the subject into sharp focus for the benefit of the electorate.

        We now need a public debate on ‘Climate Change’ in a similar but scientifically based vein to at least educate all of us who will have to pay the costs of the pseudo -science now being peddled.

      • forthurst
        Posted April 15, 2014 at 11:51 am | Permalink

        uanime5: “The measured values say that the average global temperature has been rapidly rising for over a century, as have CO2 levels. There’s also proof that higher CO2 levels trap more heat, resulting in the average global temperature increasing.”

        It’s important to understand that the Earth’s climate is an open dynamic system with many variables, most of which are poorly understood; to make claims of proof of AGW whilst failing to identify and quantify all those others variables, such that the climate can be modelled successfully, is incorrect.

  30. Gareth
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Fixing GCSEs is merely fixing a symptom of the two underlying problems with education:

    a) The behaviour crisis.
    b) The enforcement of progressive teaching strategies by OFSTED.

    Gove’s favourite blogger Andrew Old (teachingbattleground.wordpress.com) continues to harp on this theme, so there is no way that the education secretary is ignorant of these issues. In any case, I fear that these problems are intractable.

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

      Indeed.

  31. A different Simon
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Why wait until 4 years into a term of office before starting to implement changes ?

    “In computer science, basic ICT content has been removed and emphasis has been placed instead on programming and far more detailed content on algorithms.”

    There is a danger that by concentrating on programming that courses could become more vocational and that what is ostensibly education is in practice training .

    Nobody would get a builder to design their house but many software houses get programmers to design computer systems and the results almost always stink .

    As a database design consultant I see this first hand .

    For I.T. we need to be producing the architects , not just the builders and to do that people need to be thoroughly immersed in the fundamentals of the field before they try and apply any of it .

    I could not advise anyone to take a computer science course because the I.T. industry in the UK has been contracting for 25 years and the Westminster set has determined that UK I.T. will be carried out by I.C.T. (foreign employees on) visa workers .

    • Iain Gill
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

      Sadly the politicians have zero idea about computer science or the IT industry. And it shows. Quite how they have managed to turn a major UK success story into a failure characterised by mass import of cheap foreign poor quality labour, mass loss of our best intellectual property to our competitors, lowered the quality of our own output to laughing stock levels, its beyond me. But then when you look at the folk sitting on Camerons “business advisory committee” and working as the Goverments Chief Technology Officer its obvious.

      Sad in the extreme.

  32. Mark
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    I’m very much in favour of restoring rigour to exams. A corollary is that we won’t need to continue sending so many students to university to learn what they once learned in school, and that instead of having to stay on for A level the same knowledge will be covered at GCSE. There is therefore potential for a significant improvement in the productivity of our education sector, and potential for substantial cost saving. So why are we forcing children to stay at school until 18, and doing nothing to stop the waste of spending on “university” in the form of ever rising tuition fee write-offs?

    While we’re about it, it would be a good idea to ensure that the curriculum is not taken over by Islamic studies, or by climate alarmism (as highlighted in the recent GWPF report) and other left wing propaganda.

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

      Exactly.

  33. Robert K
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Having seen the work that my daughter put in to get a terrific set of grades at GCSE and A Level, which was rewarded by offers of places at several fine universities, I am less inclined to criticise the system than others might be. I see a bit too much commentary in the media about “easy” exams, which demeans the efforts of the kids who succeed at them. Of course the system must be rigorous, but it must also be fair.

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 14, 2014 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      The problem is easy exams do not help the brighter students at all. Students are divided on silly mistakes, understanding the marking methods or the odd slip – they are not really challenged.

  34. John
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    I was a secondary school pupil (and not a very good one) and left in 1964 aged 15 with no qualifications. I first went into the army and later studied electronics and became a designer and project manager. In later life I was astounded at how stupid graduates, that had studied electronics at university, were. They could not do rudimentary maths, string a business letter together, write a report, use basic grammar or even spell simple words. One graduate had obtained a Bsc and did not even know what Bsc stood for (he would also say pacific when he meant specific).
    It is not that we were smarter than them, it is because the teaching is so bad that they no longer have a chance to excel. Even the teachers are now worse than a very mediocre secondary pupil was in my day. If the teachers aren’t taught correctly what chance have the students got?

  35. Robert Taggart
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Always hated skule, and as for exams – never did revise ! No swat Moi !!

    Why can a simple though challenging school leaving examination not be devised ? An Education Certificate with at least five numerical grades. On the basis of this, those pupils who choose to become students – would have a clear idea as to which level of education they could master – further or higher.

    ‘A’ level has often been regarded as ‘the gold standard’ of secondary education – REALLY ? !

    Finally – a plea !… Basic Mathematics (Addition, Division, Multiplication, Proportion, Subtraction) – why can we not have a curriculum / examination for only the simplest of sums ? – you know ?? – the only ones most people will ever need to know !!

    Signed GCE ‘O’ + CSE flunker !

  36. Julian Hooper
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Michael Gove’s proposals to reform the school exam system are very good news indeed. I have felt so very sorry for my ten grandchildren whose school curricular seemed to be not only boring and uninteresting but lacked any proper challenge. Now we can look forward to a system that not will not only benefit individuals and help them to live a more fulfilled and interesting life but can only be of very great benefit to our Nation.

  37. Ex-expat Colin
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    Brain agility…there, I said it!

    • Robert Taggart
      Posted April 15, 2014 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      NO – you tapped it !

  38. Tom William
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    There seems to be some confusion about exam and syllabus. If every university had its own entrance exam they would need to define the syllabus. For that reason there are a number of exam boards who set the exams according to an agreed syllabus. Someone has to set an agreed syllabus for the whole country and if it needs to be made tougher, because it is too easy, so be it.

  39. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Sounds good. If the educational establishment hates it, it must be good. What do employers think? Their opinions matter.

    • bigneil
      Posted April 15, 2014 at 1:10 am | Permalink

      My employer, just before I had to retire, took on more and more East Europeans – some who still cannot speak English, many years after getting here. How do they understand all the Health and Safety rules? If they get injured, they can claim they did not understand . .and . . the **** hits the fan. So I don’t believe the employers actually give a damn, so long as they are cheap.

  40. oldtimer
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Slightly, but not entirely OT. Do you have an opinion on the adequacy of the Oxford PPE degree? The reason I ask is that I have heard an Oxford economics fellow being quite rude about it. He implied that people did well in PPE Finals (by getting Firsts) by giving the “right” answers and contrasted this with other degree subjects which offered much more challenging questions that required thought before writing an answer.

    If there is anything in this view, do you suppose it has had an impact on parliamentary group think given the number of leading polititicians of all parties that read PPE and gained Firsts?

    Reply I did not take PPE myself, but have subsequently read the work of some who got good Firsts in PPE who have applied for fellowships. I do not detect less achievement or academic rigour in their work than in other subjects that I understand.

  41. Mockbeggar
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    My daughter took ‘O’ levels in their last year of operation. She did well enough in all subjects other than French (which she failed) for the school to suggest she try for Oxbridge. However, she would need to get French before Oxbridge would even would consider her. So she re-took French ‘O’ level in the autumn – and failed again. She therefore took French GCSE the following summer and got an ‘A’! She subsequently went on to Oxford.
    The experience did make me wonder then about the rigour of these new exams….

  42. The Prangwizard
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    I applaud the introduction of more rigorous teaching and testing. I would support the re-introduction of Grammar Schools, a most effective tool in the development of social mobility and aspiration.

    But in particular, since these changes are to take place in 2016, I think it is valid to question the emphasis on British history rather than English history, whether the Scots vote for independence or not, after all Mr Gove’s is presumably talking only about England as education policy and practise is devolved.

    This seems to be an example of what I have commented on elsewhere, the subsuming of English identity, in this case by the British academic and teaching establishment.

    • bigneil
      Posted April 15, 2014 at 1:21 am | Permalink

      I went to the local grammar school. I passed 4 “O” levels, missed 3 others by 2 points each. Finances stopped me from carrying on to “A” levels and had to leave to get a job. I would not have been able to go to University -finances threw that out straight away. I ended up doing manual work all my working life, while a classmate, who left with no “O” levels at all got well in with the local councillors and ended up as leader of the County Council with a great wage and great pension. He got no other qualifications after leaving school as far as I know. A clear case of “who you know, not what you know”. A grammar school did me no good whatsoever, despite me taking an IQ test in 1991 and scoring 154. At work I was just classed as a “target” to be bullied by the manager, with no help then, as it was too early for all the compensation claims etc that now goes on.

  43. Paul
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    It is all good stuff. The problem is where you are starting from. You have to unpick years of ineptitude and ‘modern teaching’ at every level from age 5 up.

    One of the problems with harder exams is that while children have the basic raw ability, they can’t do them because of this. They can barely read the exams that you or I did, let alone answer the questions.

  44. acorn
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    I guess we are in full election mode now. Posting anything that tells the truth about the economy doesn’t get published anymore on this site. I / we are pretty sure now that you are part of the problem, not part of the solution. It’s been fun reading the comments on this site and playing “spot the psychosis”.

    To quote S&M’s Chris D :- “Bayesian conservatism [that is] Tories, and especially those who spent their formative years in the 80s, believe that the private sector is a powerful, vigorous engine of growth. This belief can persist even after the evidence for it has weakened. There are many examples of good ideas outliving their truth and usefulness. Maybe confidence in the private sector’s ability to grow is one.”

    It will be left to the history books to detail how much damage the most recent Conservative Chancellor has done to the UK economy. The voters will never understand it fortunately for Mr Osborne. History will show that he was, and if we are really unlucky, continue to be, a bigger disaster than Barber or Lawson.

    Alas, it will always be true that the UK electorate will get the government it deserves. “Joe 90″ (Michael Gove) will make sure of that, because he knows that education is a dangerous tool in the hands of the masses.

    Reply No I am not in pre election mode and it should be obvious I do not run a Tory spin site! I continue to write the truth about the economy as I see it. Even you must have noticed jobs, output and investment are all up.

  45. Kenneth R Moore
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    I suspect much of this is just ‘window dressing’ by Mr Gove.
    Mr Gove is doing nothing to reverse the erosion of standards in Mathematics – why are so many University’s reporting they have to do ‘catch up’ lessons in this subject?

    Mr Redwood taking his O-level higher level maths paper would find it of similar difficulty to a modern A-level exam – but that was before the days of ‘all must have prizes’.

  46. uanime5
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    The last Government utterly failed to provide an exams system that was fit for purpose.

    Gove has tried to propose a new system nearly every year, all of which have failed because they weren’t fit for purpose.

    Exams were so afflicted by grade inflation and dumbing down that, even though official results soared, our performance in international tests stagnated.

    Our international rankings slid because many countries either improved their education from a low level (such as China), or realised that blaming the teacher for all problems in education and giving them a huge workload wasn’t a good way to retain the best teachers.

    That is why this government is determined to restore integrity to the exams system, with new GCSEs and A levels which are inoculated against grade inflation and pegged to world’s best.

    Why not just use the International Baccalaureate, which is inoculated against grade inflation and is regarded as one of the world’s best qualifications?

    there will be clearer mathematical requirements for each topic

    How is this going to work in in GCSE biology?

    British history will in future account for 40% of a GCSE, rather than 25% as now. There will also be an increase in the number of geographical areas pupils must study.

    How can pupils study history from more areas when they’re also studying British history?

    Students will also need to use a wide range of investigative skills and approaches, including mathematics and statistics

    How are you going to include mathematics and statistics in geography? Why are you trying to add maths to subjects that generally don’t require them?

    Most exam questions will be set in the language itself, rather than in English.

    This may leads to pupils only being taught how to read exam questions in a foreign language.

    Finally, ancient languages have been given a separate set of criteria for the first time, reflecting their specific requirements.

    Surely ancient languages could be taught in the same way as modern languages, minus the speaking requirements.

    Mathematical and quantitative content has been strengthened in each of the sciences, computer science, economics and business: for example, understanding standard deviation in biology and the concepts underlying calculus in physics.

    This will only be useful if related to parts of the subject that the pupil is studying. Trying to create a whole module just on standard deviation and calculus will be a waste of time.

    We have also reintroduced the requirement for A level students to be examined on an ‘unseen’ literary text, to encourage wide and critical reading.

    That’s a terrible idea. Critical reading and analysis is something that takes time, so it’s nothing something that can be accurately tested during an exam.

    Alongside these announcements on the content of exams, Ofqual has set out how these new GCSEs and A levels should be assessed – with linear assessment rather than modules, and a greater focus on exams rather than controlled assessment.

    In other words the opposite way that university courses are taught. All this will do is make it harder for pupils to go to university because they’ll have to adapt to a new system. We should be making GCSEs and A levels more similar to university education so that pupils will easily be able to transition into students.

  47. a-tracy
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    John, the government can make fantastic, fabulous top down changes but if the teachers aren’t buying in to the changes and are resisting them there will be a lot of children failing through no fault of their own. Perhaps the teachers with a high % of failure should face the same examination at the same time as their pupils the following year.

    I’m not sure I buy all of the negative comments about education above, I have three children that seem to have been continually tested from the age of 13. There have been problems and issues, some excellent, fabulous supportive teaching and some poor teaching with a couple of teachers that I don’t feel should be doing that job at that level.

    I like Michael Gove, he’s one of my favourite MPs but he needs an interface between him and teachers that can sell his decisions in a positive manner subject by subject, a Steve Jobs, Theo Papithis, Karen Brady, Margaret Mumford type of personality who is willing to listen to both sides and has a passion to sell the new concepts to reluctant changers.

    By far one of the most negative effects on secondary education were subject teachers leaving half way through a GCSE or A level and the new teacher not being handed over the log efficiently so the subjects weren’t covered in enough depth or understanding checked. Self-motivated, out of school learners with supportive parents can rise above this but people without this backup help suffer.

    I also think every parent whose child has finished seven years of high school training should be offered an opportunity to write what they feel worked and what they feel didn’t work during their child’s time at that school, school/college report. Those parents that aren’t inclined to answer it wouldn’t be compulsory, but if I was a Head of a school I would like this feedback. I wonder if private schools get that information.

  48. John Wrexham
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    I was among the last cohort to take O Levels ( though I did have to take Religious Studies GCSE as our school forgot to register us for the O Level so we had to take the GCSE the following year.) About nine or ten years ago I studied for Welsh GCSE and in the oral we had a group conversation where we had to chat among ourselves – one of my classroom colleagues had such a poor grasp of Welsh he kept answering questions we hadn’t asked or making statements that didn’t make sense. After the written exam, he admitted to me that he had only answered half the questions, because he just couldn’t do the others. However, it was alright in the end – we all got A* but he had to be satisfied with an A grade. This is purely anecdotal and should in no way be treated as symptomatic of govt education policy. In contrast, i went on two French exchanges when I was at school, spent a fortnight each time immersed in la France profonde and was able to chat with ease in French with my hosts and still the b*ggers would only give me a B in O Level French!!

  49. John Wrexham
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    Overall, i think educational qualifications are a bit like money. Scarcity leads to value and inflation devalues the worth of an item and this affects behaviour. Many young people at school work really hard at their GCSEs because they know that a C grade is the de facto pass mark (grades D to wherever are a sop invented by the liberal left to make people feel better on results day) and that to stand out they need to get an A or and A*. The brightest have realized that anything less is not worth as much as it used to be,; some realize that the soft subjects aren’t worth studying because the universities and employers don’t value such subjects or view them as a b it of a joke. Moreover as more pupils gain five or more GCSEs at A-C so it is vital to get 10 at A-C. Meanwhile, teachers and schools are increasingly judged on the results of their pupils and this has resulted in them changing behaviours – directing pupils to softer subjects and concentrating on key D-C borderline pupils. All these behaviours are reasonable and logical responses to the situations in which pupils, teachers and head teachers find themselves.

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood has been the Member of Parliament for Wokingham since 1987. First attending Kent College, Canterbury, he graduated from Magdalen College, and has a DPhil from All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.
    Published and promoted by Thomas Puddy for John Redwood, both of 30 Rose Street Wokingham RG40 1XU
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